The best thing about cycling might be the fact that every ride can somehow turn into a metaphor for life. Take today for instance. I rode 24.4 miles, and somehow experienced elation, despair, and everything in between.
Let’s start off with the elation. Derbyshire is utterly stunning. Oh wait, hang on, I’m not telling this right, in order to get to elation I need to start with suffering. I am, after all, writing again. That’s how the day really began. With a brutal 10km climb, starting a minute after I’d left the house. I suffered. Immensely. And when I stopped to take a picture to prove to myself how much I had suffered and how steep it was, a man standing outside his farm began laughing at me. I was breathing so hard I was making more noise wheezing than his huge dog was barking . All the pain was worth it when I got to the top. Full of adrenaline and relief that I’d survived my first test, and faced with this view, I couldn’t be anything but elated.
Derbyshire. Who knew? I feel like this is a seriously undervalued county.
I may have ridden a few hills before, but I never stop being utterly astonished when I get to the top and soak in a view that’s so beautiful I want to cry. This was a ride of many incredible views…
…and a ride where I got to make some new friends.
…..it was also a ride that contained one shockingly embarrassing moment that made me want to curl up and hide under someone’s stairs.
If you know me, you’ll know I have a serious issue with cleats. Try as I may, I just don’t get on with them. I fall off the bike in completely innocuous places like traffic lights, and today, just after going through a gate. All because my head cannot connect with my body parts fast enough to tell my bloody ankles to move swiftly to the right when I come into danger, need to stop rapidly and therefore my shoe needs not to be connected to my pedal.
Today this disconnect led to me falling in the only puddle in Derbyshire in one of the hottest June’s on record. I also somehow excavated a chunk of flesh from my knee. How this is possible when moving at such low speed I’ll never know. I imagine it was quite shocking and confusing to the man in the high-vis vest who was behind me too. Thankfully he didn’t let this show though and very sweetly just asked (you have to imagine this in a northern accent) “are you alright luv?”. I was alright, just slightly mortified that I had, once again, been defeated by some moulded plastic. I was also slightly mortified that, whilst not painful, my knee was going to find it difficult to stop bleeding as you tend to bend that area of your body quite a lot whilst trying to power along a bike, and given that I was literally at the half way point of the ride, so as far away from home as I could get, my knee was going to have to bend, a lot.
Ah well, we continue. Because that’s what you do in life. You push through the shit bits, and you get through to the beautiful bits, both in the traditional sense…
…and the non-traditional sense…
….beauty aside, my knee was still gushing away so I did think it pertinent to stop at a chemist when I eventually reached civilisation. Only to be told they had nothing in any way shape or form to help me, not even a plaster. At a chemist. This made me laugh as all I really wanted was some water to clean myself up with, so people stopped looking at me so horrified when they saw me riding towards them. And as it was approaching 30 degrees in the shade there was absolutely no way I was using any of my precious drinking water to sort the problem.
The injury was more of a mind injury really, I was suddenly skittish and frequently got off the bike and walked it when I encountered either rough or steep ground. And once I was next to the river I walked a lot. I have always had an irrational fear that I will one day be cycling along a river and fall in. I have no idea where this came from. I don’t see why I would suddenly topple whilst near water, but that doesn’t matter, the fear is real. So I got off when I reached the River Goyt. After all, I didn’t want to die because I couldn’t un-clip my foot from the stupid cleats and be dragged to the bottom by my the weight of my bike, only two days after finally leaving the job I’d been working up the courage to leave for years. So I walked. And I sat.
I soaked in the beauty and I saw an aqueduct! What humans are capable of will never cease to amaze me….
All in all, it was a tough ride. There was a lot of climbing….
….there was a lot of uneven ground…
….and there was a lot of hot sun…
….but ultimately, there was just so, so, so, much joy….
I got home bloody, dirty, tired, all the things we spend most of our days trying to avoid. Which is where I think we go wrong incidentally. When you feel all those things, and you come out of the other side, you feel like you can take on the world. I came home so proud of myself for conquering the day, that I felt like it didn’t matter how scared I was I had effectively halved my salary over night by quitting my “proper” job I’d worked so hard at for so long. I wasn’t scared that I might never write anything any good. I knew that whatever happened I would be OK.
I had a day where my happiness and motivation levels had undulated along with the road. I had pretty much ticked off every emotion you can feel. I had lived a life in a day. I was ready for what was next. And the funny thing was, it wasn’t even that hard a day in the scheme of things. I’ve had far worse. And I’m sure any ultra cyclists reading this will think I’m an absolute lightweight. That’s fine. I identify as one. But it doesn’t matter. Because it’s all relative. This was the day I needed to have, at this particular time, to give me that boost of confidence in myself after it had been so low for so long.
So I say, go out, have an adventure, push yourself, bleed a bit, bleed a lot, or don’t bleed at all, just see what life story will unfold on your bike.